Deal with Fox ends after 2005 season

Updated: June 1, 2004, 10:33 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- The New York Mets might follow the lead of the crosstown Yankees and start their own cable television network.

The Mets paid $54 million last week to buy out the remainder of their contract with Madison Square Garden Network and Fox Sports Net New York, exercising their right to terminate the deal after the 2005 season.

Under a 1996 agreement, the Mets had until Monday to exercise the buyout. Both networks are owned by Madison Square Garden LP, which also owns the NBA's New York Knicks and the NHL's New York Rangers and is a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems Corp.

The Mets retained former deputy baseball commissioner Steve Greenberg of Allen & Co. to represent them in TV discussions and issued a statement saying they will "explore all options."

"We are excited about the opportunities that are available to us," the Mets said.

The Mets' deal was to run through 2011, and the team is receiving about $47 million from MSG this year, a lawyer familiar with the contract said on the condition of anonymity.

Among the Mets' options are to start a new network with an existing broadcaster, such as YES, Time Warner or Viacom; to start a network on their own; or to strike a conventional rights sale with MSG or another network.

The Mets were televised on SportsChannel from 1982-97, and the network was renamed Fox Sports Net New York in 1998. Cablevision moved some of the games to the MSG Network in 2002, after the Yankees ended their contract with MSGN and started the YES network.

MSGN president Mike McCarthy hopes his network will sign a new contract with the Mets.

"As is the case with all team rights negotiations, this is a process which we hope and expect will result in a continuation of the long-standing partnership between the New York Mets, MSG and Fox Sports Net New York," he said.

Mets senior vice president David Howard did not return a telephone call seeking comment.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press